An Interview with the Photographer Michael Elmquist in Brooklyn, New York

Portrait by Kristiina Wilson

Portrait by Kristiina Wilson

 

To inspire those of you chasing the dream of a career in the arts, I will be interviewing some interesting characters to learn about their journey. So often we're taught that success can only be defined by how much money you make in your 'serious' profession, but talent and imagination can be worth so much more. To kick off proceedings I will be talking to my friend, the dynamic photographer Michael Elmquist from Brooklyn. He was born in Rockford, Minnesota before heading east to the bright lights of New York. Making the enviable transition from modelling with DNA Models and Viva Berlin to becoming a photographer, musician and director, he treads a path that many of his contemporaries are trying to follow. His present project is an innovative photographic comic book with the somewhat intriguing name, Fatima and the Boy in Stripes. I am on the edge of my seat waiting for its release. 

We had a memorable meeting at a quirky, but rainy party in Fort Green, Brooklyn two years ago where the hosts had tied colourful umbrellas to the trees. The accidental art installation that protected us from the elements really lingered in the memories of all of the guests and brought us back together. Michael was wearing a black leather jacket and simple white t-shirt and I remember noting that he was beautifully dressed. Not only is he enchanting, but also an eloquent young man who proves to be a dream partner for tackling the thrift shops of Williamsburg.

 

 Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your passion?

I never quite remember making the ‘decision’ in the way of having a conversation inside my head. However, there was this one day when I was living with my friend and we had all these swords (and some cats) and I told him to wear this black coat. I lit some candles on a table and took a picture with one of those disposable cameras. I kinda just kept doing stuff like that from then on.

 What piece of your work would you like to be remembered for?

When it comes to legacy, I’m well aware everyone remembers someone or something with their own version of a memory. Everything I do is just as important as the last thing, but just with a different passport. I hope people remember me for their favorite thing rather than someone else’s.

 If you could be born in another period of history, when would it be?

Sans the hygiene and disease and general danger (and probably the odor), I’d say the middle ages. I really like swinging a claymore around.

 How would you define beauty in 140 characters or less?

Honesty.

 Do you have a favourite book, film or painting, which inspires you?

I’ve read about two books, and I don’t really watch many films or look at paintings. The person reading a book, or watching a film, or looking at a painting. I quite like that.

What is your greatest indulgence in life?

Video games and champagne.

What fictional character from literature or film would you like to meet?

Again, this is a tough one since I haven’t read or watched much. Though there was a guy called ‘Ratsy’ from a book. I’d like to have dinner with him.

Do you believe that true creative expression can exist in the digital world?

Yes. It’s like, okay, ’sports’. The best players make it to the top through hard-work and practice and that’s really the only way to get there. However, technology has made various art mediums far more accessible, so the ocean of ‘artwork’ has become so vast and bleak and it’s goddam tough to find the good pieces within it.

What do you wish every child was taught?

How to better make and trust their own decisions.

Have you ever had a moment when you questioned your career entirely?

I don’t think I even have a career. That word confuses me. It’s really boring.

What is your favourite museum or art gallery and why?

I dislike both of those things. I heard there’s a transit museum. I would like to visit that one.

Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?

Sufjan Stevens. I feel like good things could happen.

What is your daily routine when working?

Wake up at a certain time (usually early) make irish coffee, answer e-mails and then go down the list of things I was supposed to do that day. Usually eat lunch around one pm. Video games get involved far too often.

What has been your most inspiring travel experience?

I’d say Japan. That was the first place where I both discovered I could get places I only previously dreamed of, and met someone worth impressing.

What advice would you give to a young person following in your footsteps?

Like what you like because you like it. Don’t dilute passion and love.

Why do you love what you do?

Because it’s unpredictable. I hope I’m even surprised on my death bed.

 

Watermelon series.

Watermelon series.

Photograph of Loammi Goetghebeur and Mitch Baker.

Photograph of Loammi Goetghebeur and Mitch Baker.

Written by Flora Alexandra Ogilvy, founder of Arteviste.com